2013-07-12 / Community

A Window on the Past

Redbank Village and the Westbrook Street Trailer Park
By Kathryn DiPhilippo, director
South Portland Historical Society

We continue this week with more of the World War II shipyard housing complexes in South Portland. Redbank Village and the Westbrook Street Trailer Park were located adjacent to one another along the section of Westbrook Street that led toward the airport. The accompanying photographs and text come from the 1953 tenth anniversary program of the South Portland Housing Authority:

“Redbank Village is a permanent project of frame one and two story, two and four family dwellings. There are 238 dwelling buildings containing 500 one, two and three bedroom units. The first units were ready for occupancy on January 12, 1943.

Except for a few months at the end of the war, it has remained fully occupied and now has a waiting list of applicants. There are 191 acres of land, less than onehalf occupied by the present buildings and recreation areas. The Community Building contains 14,364 square feet of floor space for offices, maintenance shop and stockroom, garages, assembly hall (capacity 300), three meeting rooms, kitchen, clinic and storerooms. In the center area at the rear of the Community Building is a 14 room grammar school, playground, skating rink and athletic field.”

In the accompanying aerial photograph, we can see the Redbank development with its semi-circular street pattern. The area that was the Westbrook Street Trailer Park is in the center, just below Redbank, with the three straight streets.

According to the Housing Authority Program, “the gray space across center and righthand streets shows where an airplane crash wiped out about twelve trailers.”

The airplane crash they refer to occurred on July 11, 1944, and is considered the worst airplane disaster in Maine’s history. Our thanks to South Portland resident John Kierstead for his work in having a permanent monument erected to recognize the disaster and to remember all of those who lost their lives that day.

The monument is located behind Plaza 29, on the land where Macarthur Street intersects with Westbrook Street.

The Housing Authority proto gram mentions both the Westbrook Street Trailer Park and the Mitchell Road Trailer Park together: “These two trailer projects consisted of 300 expansible trailers for family use and additional trailers for toilets and laundries. They occupied a total of 38 acres. Expansible trailers are so constructed that their sides open out to provide two rooms, one on each side of a central utility section containing an oil fired circulating heater and a kitchen equipped with cupboard space, a gasoline stove and ice box.

Sleeping accommodations provided for six persons. Utility trailers were equipped with tubs and showers and Bendix electric washing machines.”

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